synthetic zero


August 31, 2001

Paul (Portland Paul, not Alamut Paul --- or Paul@Portland as opposed to Paul@Alamut) recommended the following exhibition of antibanners and other stuff. Made by these guys.

August 29, 2001

Cynthia Korzekwa is back.

I had a dream in which there was a DV camera which captured light perfectly. You looked at the tape, you looked with your eyes, it was the same. I mean the colors, the tones, the contrasts. It was made by Sony (in my dream). I was so ecstatic to find this mythical camera. "At last, people can see how sublime it all appears to me."

Caterina speaks about webloglove. I've met so many great people (admittedly, most of them live far away, but not all) as a result of my weblog. I think it is an excellent way to meet a potential mate. Aside from romance, weblogs are a great way to meet friends. I don't quite know why people think computers are a way of alienating one's self from human contact; that has not been my experience, at least in the weblog realm.

August 28, 2001

Different kinds of unknowns:

The unknown as in not yet known

The unknown as in not yet covered by our map of the world

The unknown as in not knowable

The unknown as in the fact that we can never be aware of or be every possible thing or being at once (awareness of everything means not being aware of anything), without the unknown being a fixed territory.

The last unknown is, in fact, what makes awareness possible. There must be vast unknowns at any given time or moment, because otherwise we could never be aware of anything.

(What is truly unknowable? I can never know what it is really like to be a crab. Because I would have to be a crab to know this.)

I spoke with Ruthie's Double yesterday. She will be returning, it's just a problem with the server.

We talked about space and the fact that space doesn't really exist, so why use the word space at all to talk about anything meaningful? I asked a teacher of mine about this once, because I had a problem with the word also, but it is a technical term used by some people (people who are well aware of the fact that space as we normally conceive of it does not exist as we usually think of it), and he said that there is a sense in which it is appropriate to use the word space to refer to something which is inherently timeless and beyond ordinary notions of space. So anyway, I am using space to refer to possibility, the flexibility of possibility. Not possibility as in possible configurations of elements which I understand to be components of the world, but rather possibility in terms of the space beyond the concepts which I have. The unknown from which everything that we think exists arises and to which everything returns.

August 26, 2001

Melody Owen has redesigned her site.

August 24, 2001

Everyone says this, but I felt like saying it too. It's the light that really impresses me about Ingmar Bergman films; something which can be credited to Sven Nykvist, his cinematographer. I've always felt that cinematographers do not get enough credit for their work on a film. It seems to me that the top credits for any film ought to include the director, the writer, the cinematographer, and then the stars. The thing is, if Bergman films weren't perfect, they would be really bad. His films seem to live right on the edge of perfection, and even the slightest deviation and suddenly the scenes would be maudlin, contrived, neurotic, or worse. But, they are perfect, and so escape that fate.

August 20, 2001

One of my secret fears has always been to end up like Charlie in Flowers for Algernon. The one thing that gives me hope is that I imagine I will die before my faculties entirely degenerate. As Miranda once said to me, death is the one thing that she knows won't let her down.

August 16, 2001

Rick Angell of Mission Critical Linux wrote me to suggest that people interested in abandoning Microsoft also consider Mozilla, the non-Netscape branded version of the browser that Netscape 6 is built upon. I installed it and it is basically the same, though it seems to launch slightly faster. He also suggests looking at the document editing tool LyX, which seems to be an excellent editing tool for a wide variety of publishing tasks (provided you are willing to try out the slightly nerdy document creation metaphor).

A certain weblog someone who likes to remain somewhat anonymous was visiting today. We had conversations about the difference between cultural production and consumption, and the arguments for making art and putting it out there. We stopped at Powell's and browsed the poetry section. As I wandered somewhat without direction, I passed this volume of Bukowski's which I decided to open at random (echoes of Caterina's stichomancy experiments a little while ago), and came to this poem, which seemed remarkably appropriate at that moment:

      we must

we must bring
our own light
to the

nobody is going
to do it
for us.

as the young boys
down the

as the fry cook
gets his last

as dog chases

as the chessmaster
loses more than
the game

we must bring
our own light
to the

nobody is going
to do it
for us,

as the lonely

as the great beast
in nightmare

as the final season
leaps into

nobody is going
to do it
for us.


August 15, 2001

Internet Explorer no longer supports Netscape-spec plugins (as of IE 5.5 SP2). Which breaks Quicktime, for example. This, plus dropping built-in support for Java in Windows XP leads me to really, really despise Microsoft. I used to grudgingly tolerate them, but this is just too much. I say, switch to Netscape 6.1 and don't look back.

And try Star Office 5.2. It's free and works pretty well. Unfortunately there's no Mac version yet. But there is a Linux version.

This just in: StarOffice gets a 15% showing in an informal Windows 2000 Magazine poll: "Which office suite do you use in your job?"

August 14, 2001

A couple of Buddhist stories that have inspired me recently. The first is from Encounters in Yoga and Zen by Trevor Leggett: A boy of twelve had lost his father, and the shock caused him to turn to Buddhism. His uncle, a devout Buddhist, realized the boy was sincere and took him to a training temple, where he was accepted by a famous teacher. The boy was very keen, and when the uncle would come to visit the teacher told him that the boy was giving it his all and he was making good progress.

An older student, a 19 year old, became somewhat resentful of the boy and his assiduous effort. One day he shouted at the boy to bring some water, and as the boy came with the water he was shouted at again, causing him to spill a little. The elder student took two iron rods used to stoke the fire and rapped the boy hard on his forearm.

The boy held his tears back until he was dismissed and then ran into the woods to cry. Just then his uncle came by to visit, and he asked the boy what was wrong. The boy tried to pretend it was nothing but the uncle could see the welts rising on his arm. The uncle stormed into the temple and confronted the teacher:

"Look at this! He's been hit, and you said yourself that he was keen and trying his very best. This is supposed to be a center of spiritual training, and look what happens!"

The teacher got up and fetched a book of sermons of the Buddha, found a particular place, and handed it to the boy saying, "Read from here." The uncle sat fuming while his nephew read in a choked voice. When the sentence came: "One who practices endurance will be a spiritual hero," the teacher said, "Read that sentence again slowly, and we'll meditate on it together."

The uncle shouted, "It's easy to meditate when you haven't been hit!"

"Yes," said the teacher, "it's easier to meditate when you haven't been hit."

He picked up the iron rods from the charcoal fire in his own room, and hit with all his force on his own arm. "Now," he said gently, "let's meditate together: One who practices endurance will be a spiritual hero."

And a quote from Shakyamuni (Siddhartha Gotama, founder of Buddhism), paraphrased from the Kalama Sutra:

Do not believe in anything (simply) because you have heard it. Do not believe in tradition because they have been handed down for many generations. Do not believe in anything because it is spoken and rumored by man. Do not believe in anything (simply) because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teacher and elders. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all then accept it and live up to it.

August 12, 2001

We seem to be making more movies now from the point of view of the ghost. De-centering the narrative from the usual "ghost as other." I like this trend.

We are afraid of the dark, or so we think, but the place where scary things really hide is in the bright sunlight, where we think we know what is going on. When we have fooled ourselves or have been fooled by others (or both) into thinking we can see clearly, when in fact our vision is occluded, distorted --- that's when we really ought to be truly afraid. It's when you start to doubt the story that you've told yourself, when things that once seemed brightly lit suddenly appear to be less so, to be more murky, shifted, different from what you thought --- when you have the darkness you need to really notice what's underneath our ordinary idea of the brightly lit world --- that's when you have a chance to really see. When we say we're afraid of the dark I think what we're afraid of is seeing things that we normally don't want to see, or have to see. But if they're there whether we see them or not, wouldn't you rather choose to see them?

August 8, 2001

Stewart sent me this hilarious link which is just too funny not to post. (changed to another mirror since the other server seems to have taken it down)

August 7, 2001

We tend to think that what is happening to us at any given moment is a fairly clear thing: it has this flavor of the singular, like a thread, a sequence. Sort of the same kind of thread that one can observe in language, which has letter following letter, word following word. But if you really think about it or pay some attention to what is going on at any given moment, it's even more clear that there's a vast amount happening in parallel: all of the multiple tracks --- you could start with the various sensations that one experiences, sound plus visual plus tactile and so forth --- and you could add on all of the processes happening outside of your conscious awareness: your sense of balance, your heartbeat, breathing, homeostatic processes throughout the body, digestion, etc. --- and all of the activity going on in every cell of your body, and then all of the activity in the environment around you that is constantly exchanging material and information with you and all of your systems... it becomes this vast functioning without a clear center, and certainly without a singular quality. It's vast and beyond one's conscious awareness, yet not separate from it.

I was playing pinball the other day and I decided to use the above observation as a way of playing pinball. Rather than "me" playing the game, I decided to relax this idea of control and allow my whole body and awareness + the pinball machine to play ... as though the pinball game (including me) was playing the pinball game (including me). Amazingly, this actually worked --- I got a much better score than I usually get on that machine. Instead of focusing my awareness on one spot, like the ball or the flippers or whatever, I tried to relax that and let my awareness be everywhere at once, and without reacting to anything, just allowed my hands to hit the buttons when they felt they ought to, in response to the whole field of activity, not localized in any specific place or point.

August 4, 2001

The old article in the New York Times on Heather Anne is still online here. Discovered on all about george while mining the Blogdex project's links of all time pages. Though she has been quiet recently, this article, which pointed to Lemonyellow and inspired a large number of people, including me, is still online. I think Heather Anne might have thought the article hyperbolic and a tad embarrassing, but I nevertheless am grateful for both the article and for her work. As I've said before, when she comes back and makes something new, whether it's a weblog or anything else, I'm sure we'll all be much the better for it.

Using my referrer logs and blogdex, I find some notable blogs: the interesting jill/txt, the eclectic timothompson, and the pleasantly intellectual wood's lot (who also linked to the NYT article about Heather Anne, and whom I swear I had heard about somewhere before but had never linked to or read until now). There are more, which I'll post later.

August 3, 2001

I've noticed a strange thing since I've been doing T'ai Chi --- I'm a lot stronger than I was before. T'ai Chi is, of course, a very slow, gentle exercise, and it seems as though one is hardly breaking a sweat while doing it --- but I've noticed that now, when I go for a walk in the woods near our house, or otherwise exert myself, I don't get tired. Susan mentioned that when she went for a long bike trip a while ago, over 70 miles a day, after having done only T'ai Chi as exercise for about a year prior to that, she didn't get tired, and didn't even experience that usual "third day" exhaustion that typically sets in on long rides. Another acquaintance of hers went on a 100 mile a day bike trip, and she experienced the same thing: even though she didn't even train for the ride, she found it was no problem at all.

What gives? It occurred to me that when we exercise we tend to think that the more exertion we undergo, the stronger we will get. This may be true for some things, but when you think about it, all that exercise is really doing, in some sense, is sending signals to our body that it needs to build up muscles. Of course, more exertion means more signals, but it's really the signals that are causing us to get stronger, not the exertion per se. Perhaps when doing T'ai Chi, even though it is an exceptionally slow, gentle form, we are sending signals to our body that it needs to tone up those muscles as well, even though the exertion is small. In T'ai Chi one goes through a wide variety of positions and ranges and types of motion; so we are moving and using many muscles that we don't typically use while just going through our everyday lives. So not only are we improving our balance, breathing, and energy, but we may also be literally toning our muscles simply by moving them. Although T'ai Chi doesn't give you the exact same results as strenuous exercise, it certainly does seem to increase conditioning, including both endurance and strength.

August 1, 2001

I've finally converted the formatting of this site to PHP templates from the hand-made HTML I started with. This will make it easier for me to roll over the months as well as provide a way for people to make permanent links to content inside my site, if they so desire. The index page will now always have an associated month-specific page with the same content, mirrored automatically. Note that the anchor naming convention remains the same: for example, this entry's anchor is aug2001.html#August1_2001 (if that confuses you, just ignore everything I'm saying in this paragraph and nothing bad will happen).

It's really not that it is easy for me to think of something to say here. At least it hasn't always been. When I first started this weblog, inspired by the always-amazing-even-though-currently-quiet Heather Anne Halpert, I used a lot of thoughts and ideas and references which I had been accumulating over many years in just the first few entries. After exhausting those, I sat down to write --- and drew a blank at first. I realized how easy it was to get stuck rehashing old thoughts, getting stagnant, not staying in the present. I also realized that the new thoughts I was having I wasn't always remembering. So I decided to buy a little portable voice recorder. With this thing, when I thought of something that I wanted to go back to later, I'd just note it in the recorder. I like the recorder better than a notepad or my Palm because I can use it even while driving or doing something else, with just one hand. This is my secret. After a while, however, writing this weblog has improved both my memory of new thoughts and even the quantity of these thoughts. Just writing them down here is highly motivating.

Please, do write, do express yourself, do add to the culture, if you can, when you have a spare moment, even if it is sporadic. Culture is an exponential game. Well worth multiplying.